Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Runaway Production in LA

Reposted from a Facebook thread on the subject of runaway production:

Yup, financially it doesn't make sense to shoot in LA, and I've seen the whole crazy game of tax incentives bouncing from one state to another, one country to another. And I'm sure it won't stop until we're shooting in some place too remote or dangerous for Hollywood to consider (I've heard too many stories about Bulgaria). And Hollywood should definitely step up and find some way to compete with all of this. I think talent would definitely prefer to shoot in their own backyard than leaving their friends and family for months to live in some crappy apartment in a third world country where the entire crew gets dysentery on day 3.

But I don't blame the government for runaway production as much as I blame the hypocrisy of the folks who live in LA.

Everyone in LA is up in arms about runaway production, but those are the same people who don't want film production blocking their driveways, tearing up their lawns, or making them late for work. Not only do you have to shell out serious money for a permit to shoot in LA, you also have to go house to house with a wad of cash to make sure everyone is happy. I've heard stories where a neighbor stood in the middle of his yard with a leaf blower running and his hand outstretched waiting for a payoff.

Remember when you first came to LA and how excited you were to see a film crew? How long did that last? You can shoot anywhere in the country and still get that kind of excitement. "Oh you're making a movie? Cool!" Meanwhile in LA, I was shut down in my own apartment building with a little home video camera filming my buddy doing a monologue. Ridiculous.

During this last shoot, we had only a few shots where we couldn't afford permits and we had to skulk around like criminals. And it wasn't just us, I saw big budget productions doing the same - hiding a camera and DP in the back of a pickup truck inside a box, or stashing a camera in a baby stroller for a shot on Venice beach.

And dealing with SAG was a nightmare! They figured we were some sleazy big budget production company trying to get away with something. When they called our cast to tell them to not work on our production, our friends blasted them back saying they would go "fi-core" if necessary to shoot this film. SAG freaked.

To say that our budget was done on a shoestring was being kind. Our entire budget for the film was 20K, which is ridiculous for an action film with close to 20 locations and a cast of 50. Thankfully, I had the support of friends who knew us and what we were trying to do, and they contributed everything from locations, to equipment, to their time and talent.

And something that was really hopeful, folks were willing to help us who didn't know who we were. Folks who knew about runaway production and were willing to do something about it. We had an entire cafe donated to us for free. This wasn't government, these were people willing to make a change. And that's how it starts.

And just because a studio wants to save a few bucks by shooting in Bangladesh, doesn't mean that the director doesn't have a say. I could've shot my little no-budget film back in Florida and saved half my budget, but I wanted to stay here. Same goes for major film directors who insist on shooting in LA, and guys like Robert Rodriguez or Jon Favreau who push government to make a change: http://www.deadline.com/2008/07/iron-man-director-lobbies-guvernator-to-try-again-for-hollywood-tax-breaks/

Unfortunately, you're probably right, it's going to get worse before it gets better. But SoCal still remains one of the most versatile places in the country for film production with some of the best talent around. And that isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

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